Partridge published a classified where he indicated he had Bramblefinch cocks and Branmblefinch hens but the advertisement itself did not make any offer for the sale of the birds. However, another person sent a cheque to Partride and asked for a hen, which Patridge provided in a box.
However, in terms of the Protection of Birds Act, 1954, offering for sale this particular species of wild brids was an offence and Partidge was convicted by the Magistrate.
Partridge appealed against conviction.
On appeal, the high court decided that the advertisement was not an offer but an invitation to treat.
However, the advertisements which come under the category of unilateral contracts are considered as offers rather than invitations to treat.
A similar point arose before this court in 1960 dealing, it is true, with a different statute but with the same words, in Fisher v. Bell. The relevant words of section 1 (1) of the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959, in that case were: “Any person who … offers for sale. … (a) any knife. …” Lord Parker C.J., in giving judgment said:
“The sole question is whether the exhibition of that knife in the window with the ticket constituted an offer for sale within the statute. I confess that I think that most lay people and, indeed, I myself when I first read the papers, would be inclined to the view that to say that if a knife was displayed in a window like that with a price attached to it was not offering it for sale was just nonsense. In ordinary language it is there inviting people to buy it, and it is for sale; but any statute must of course be looked at in the light of the general law of the country.”
The words are the same here “offer for sale,” and in my judgment the law of the country is equally plain as it was in regard to articles in a shop window, namely that the insertion of an advertisement in the form adopted here under the title “Classified Advertisements” is simply an invitation to treat.
It was held that the advertisement in question constituted in law an invitation to treat and not an offer to sell; therefore the offence with which the appellant was charged was not established.